With measles, mumps, and other previously eradicated diseases making a comeback, it’s more important than ever to make sure your vaccinations are up to date — especially if you’re an adult.
Herd immunity protects the most vulnerable among us; a lapsed pertussis vaccine may not pose much of a threat to you, but it could seriously harm an immunocompromised kid or elder.
Unfortunately, lots of healthy adults are unaware of their vaccination status. As we age and move around, change doctors, and change health insurance, our full medical histories don’t always come with us. It can be difficult to dig up that information, but it’s unquestionably worth it. Here’s how to make sure you’re protecting yourself — and, more importantly, those around you.
Figure out which shots you need
You can’t stay up on your vaccines unless you know which ones you need, and for adults, this information can be difficult to find.
The good news is that healthy adults don’t have much to worry about: accidentally overlapping your doses is only a problem if your immune system can’t handle it. If you haven’t had an MMR dose since high school — or can’t remember your last tetanus booster — you can just request the shots you need. If you’re in good health, most providers will be happy to give them to you.
People with certain medical conditions, especially those that weaken the immune system, need to be more careful. In these cases, a titer test may be helpful. Titer tests measure the concentration of disease-specific antibodies in your blood, which will tell you if you actually need another dose of a particular vaccine. Unfortunately, titers only test for one antibody at a time — and depending on your insurance situation, even one test can be prohibitively expensive.
Although anyone can request a titer, D.C.-based physician Dr. James Ellzy told me that they’re usually reserved for people who could react badly to an ill-timed dose.
He specifically mentioned pregnancy as a condition that would lead him to order a titer, but HIV, diabetes, and renal disease, among others, can all effect your vaccine eligibility.
Find out where to get vaccinated
The next step is finding a place to get the shots you need. Your GP is always a great place to start. They are most likely the one who has been administrating all your previous vaccinations up until this point.
For low-risk vaccines like flu and tetanus, you can often walk right into a bulk billing surgery or private practice and request a shot. Always call ahead to make sure they have the vaccine you want in stock and double-check that they’re allowed to actually administer it.
Keep (and update) your own records
Since official vaccination records aren’t always on hand, a little private record-keeping can be extremely helpful. When you get your boosters, don’t forget to record the details somewhere easily accessible. You can even set a calendar reminder for your next dose if you like — that way, you’ll never fall behind again.
Theres even an app from the NSW government to help keep on top of your vaccination schedules if you need reminders.